The true cost of fly-tipping

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NFU communications adviser Alison Pratt has the facts.

We’ve all seen it: an old fridge or cooker, a few tyres, some garden clippings dumped behind a hedge or in a field gateway. To everyone who loves the countryside, and surely that’s all of us, dumping rubbish is a crime and yes, it is a criminal offence, too, punishable by stiff fines or even imprisonment. It’s called fly-tipping.

Unfortunately this awful menace is on the increase. A survey a couple of years ago found that there had been over 700,000 incidents of fly-tipping – that’s one every 44 seconds! And it is amazing what is dumped: everything from builders’ rubble and burned out cars, to industrial waste such as asbestos; all of it illegal, some of it very dangerous not just to us, but to livestock and wildlife and some of it incredibly polluting to the environment.

Whenever something’s dumped in the countryside, someone has to deal with it and if it’s on private land then it is usually the farmer or landowner who foots the bill. An NFU survey found that 67 per cent of farmers had had to dispose of fly-tipped rubbish, costing the industry an estimated £47 million.

So where does all this rubbish come from? Some is dumped just because the owner doesn’t know what to do with it, or perhaps the tip was closed, or they just couldn’t be bothered to dispose of it properly. Others are even more unscrupulous. There are ‘handymen’ or ‘gardeners’ or ‘scrap metal merchants’ who aren’t what they say they are – they’re cowboys. Unlicensed waste disposal operatives are there to make a quick buck and they’re not too fussy about what happens to your rubbish, either.

However, you can help prevent fly-tipping by making sure that someone who offers to do a job for you has a licence to dispose of any waste properly. If you trust an unlicensed operator and if they then dump your rubbish illegally, you will be liable under the law and could face large fines. Ask to see their licence and get a receipt for any goods taken away.

Or, do the job yourself: take waste to your nearest local authority disposal site, or arrange for collection of bulky items like fridges or cookers. Old furniture can often be donated to charities who will even collect it, or why not try selling or swapping your unwanted goods on the internet?

NFU’s ‘Love your Countryside’ campaign aims to raise awareness of fly-tipping and other threats to the beauty and safety of our countryside. Why not read more about our campaign at